Aplscruf's Music Blog

Richmond Fontaine’s Swan Song in Seattle

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Richmond Fontaine played a final show in Seattle at The Sunset on May 14, 2016. L-R: Dan Eccles (guitar), Willy Vlautin (vocals, guitar), Freddy Trujillo (bass), Sean Oldham (drums). Photo Credit: Alicia Rose

It was a night full of contradictions. I’d never heard of Richmond Fontaine until just a few months ago. The Portland band have been around over 20 years. Last Saturday, they played a final show in Seattle. I’m now a new fan of a band that is breaking up. Great. I’m late to the party–er, funeral once again.

I witnessed a band’s wake before–Seattle’s North Twin, who delivered their own coup de grace just down the street at The Tractor about six years ago. I prefer it that way; at least there’s some closure. The death of Richmond Fontaine will be prolonged a few more months; but here in Seattle, they celebrated their long life surrounded by friends and musical family. There will be at least one more show in Oregon, and an Ireland/UK farewell tour in October before they pull the plug. They’re ending amicably and leaving us with a parting gift: a fantastic new album fittingly titled You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To.

I binge-listened to RF’s albums over the last few weeks, trying to catch up before we hit the show. Frontman and acclaimed author Willy Vlautin‘s lyrics paint desolate pictures of the downtrodden, lonely, broke, the unlucky, the abandoned–the outcasts of society. Tales of addiction, break-ups, desperation, and downward spirals are common themes throughout the ten albums. Some characters are likable losers who were dealt a bad hand in life or have paid dearly for their bad choices. But there is also a feeling, just a glimmer, a hint, that once in a while, one of those effed-up kids he writes and sings about is going to be alright. Each day that I listened, I always circled back to their latest  release, the thirteen songs on You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To. It’s depressing as hell at times, and yet I wanted to hear it again and again. I connected and empathized with the characters. The up-tempo melodies of some of the songs offset the melancholy lyrics. Balance.

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Willy Vlautin – Illustration by Nate Beaty

I also read Willy Vlautin’s first of four books called The Motel Life. Although the heartbreaking story and sympathetic characters absolutely gutted me, I wanted to read more and was sad that it had to end. I plan on purchasing the rest of his books. Feel free to do the same here: http://willyvlautin.com/store/ Rumor has it, his fifth book is in the works. According to Willy, when his personal life is falling apart, he writes songs. When he’s healthy, out jogging, he’s probably writing a book. Strangely, I had his name and the book’s title in my phone under “Books to Read” for a year–a strong recommendation from my friend Kari, artist and loving partner of David Corley, who also spent time with Willy and Co. in Ireland. I never made the connection until just recently.

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Be sure to purchase their merch!

I also was told by a friend, Oliver Gray (who is mentioned in the liner notes of at least one of RF’s albums), that Willy’s books must be read in order of publication. Oliver is not only a superfan, but a venue owner, promoter, music critic, and author. He has hosted RF shows in England for many years (RF has a huge cult following in The UK and Ireland) and befriended the band in the process. I just met Oliver in person while we were on holiday near London in April, just days before I found out about RF’s show date in Seattle.

One thing I love about live music is how it brings strangers together, bonding over the common love of a band. I made another new friend after I announced on Facebook I was attending this show. Allison, a superfan from Canada, traveled to Seattle with her husband Tony, and we met up at Hattie’s Hat for a chat beforehand. We have several mutual, music-loving friends, so it was only natural that we should eventually meet and instantly bond (while our patient husbands sat idly by). Although she’s been a fan for years, she had never seen RF in person, so she was thrilled to experience this final show.

The day of the show was dark, gloomy, and rainy–so contradictory to the blue-sky day before, which sizzled Seattle with record-breaking temperatures.

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We made our way to the very front of the stage, right after the doors opened. There is nothing like standing in the front row of an intimate venue. I love watching the band, up close and personal. I like catching their nuances: the onstage banter and inside jokes; a grimace while hitting a big chord; a tapping foot; a sly, knowing smile when a rare wrong note is hit; nimble fingers finding the frets; glances and nods when things are going well. RF was no exception. One could tell they have a healthy, brotherly bond with each other, even though their band was on its way out.

If they love each other so much, why are they breaking up? Read and listen to Willy Vlautin’s answers here:

Willy Vlautin was interviewed recently by Casey Jarman of Portland Monthly : http://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2016/4/15/willy-vlautin-on-richmond-fontaine-s-farewell-and-the-price-of-living-hard

While in Ireland, Willy also spoke with Martin Bridgeman on a radio broadcast regarding the breakup, the new album, and the crafting of his songs and stories: http://kclr96fm.com/folkroots-interview-willy-vlautin-152016/

The mature audience knew their band and were there to give them a final sendoff with support and love. Although I was a newbie here, I still felt accepted and comfortable among them. It was fun to watch the crowd, too, as many sang along with Willy or nodded their heads in acknowledgement to a song, and loudly clapped and whooped after each one.

Richmond Fontaine began the set with my favorite song off their new album called “Wake Up Ray”. Here is a live version from Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Willy’s lyrics tear at my heart:

Wake Up Ray

It ain’t no use, ain’t no use
Maybe some guys just ain’t meant to
I was living in Montana once and I was married
For a while it rolled so easy
But she got to where she couldn’t stand our place
She got to where she cringed at the way I slept and ate
I bought her a bird, a finch she called little Joe
And then one night she blew into a rage
In a snowstorm she ran outside and opened up the cage

Wake up Ray let’s get out of here
This town’s done nothing it’s clear but try to do us in

Wake up Ray, the sun’s coming up and still I can’t stop thinking
How can someone you love so much grow against you so?
All I did, all I did was try to toe that line
The same line you see everyone else toe
Now all I remember is running through the snow
Looking for Little Joe as the wind blowed

Wake up Ray, I need a cup of coffee in a bad way
Let’s get out of here this town ain’t done nothing
It’s clear but try to do us in

The Seattle show included most songs from their latest album and also dove into tracks from the last two decades.There were some last-minute changes to the original list, too. Their stage performance was tight, energized and faster-paced than some of their recorded songs–fueled, I’m sure, by the enthusiastic audience. Early on, longtime fans shouted out song requests, and Willy acknowledged a few with a wide-eyed nod, or laughed at their persistence.

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Willy would stop once in a while and explain the origin of a song, such as the dark and ominous “Hallway” from 2003’s Post to Wire. He said he used to meet a friend for breakfast at a cafe, and one day he didn’t show up. Willy went to his house and found the friend in his tighty-whities, hiding in the hall with a gun. Apparently, he was on a coke binge and had been up for three days. “He almost shot me that day. I never met him for breakfast after that.”

“Let’s Hit One More Place” from the new album was dedicated to Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5, who headlined this night. Willy said he’s been a fan of The Minus 5 for 20 years, and channeled Scott when he wrote this song.

“Two Friends Lost At Sea” was based on another true story. One of Willy’s favorite Portland punk bands was Dead Moon. When people are excited about a band, they like to tell their friends. Sometimes, that leads to a wonderful shared experience. Other times, like in Willy’s case, it ruins the band for them. He made the mistake of introducing a girlfriend to the band. Later, she broke up with him. The next time he saw her was at Dead Moon’s show. She was making out with some new guy in the front row. Ruined.

Although he seemed a little shy onstage and mostly sang with his eyes closed, he was very personable, friendly, and humble in the merch line before and after the show. He greeted each fan, listened intently to their stories, and seemed grateful to them for showing up. There’s a self-deprecating charm about him, as if he is genuinely surprised by his fame and the fact that his books and music are treasured by so many people around the world.

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Freddy Trujillo and Willy Vlautin

Dan Eccles on lead guitar, just rocked. He was so entertaining to watch as he grimaced and head-banged through the set, his long hair trying to keep up with the beat. His nimble fingers delicately found each chord on the slower folk songs, but slammed the power chords with a full-body gyration. He had a minimal amount of pedals, but made excellent use of them to alter the sound to match a pedal steel guitar, add some serious fuzz, or the emphasize the twang in his Telecaster.

One of the last rocking songs of the evening, “Lost in The Trees” is from 2011’s The High Country. They also played this song at Kilkenny Roots Festival in early May, and are favorite performers there. Below, you can hear Freddy’s thumping bass, watch Dan shred that Tele, and be amazed at how seemingly effortless Sean is at holding the steady, commanding beat on drums. Willy’s grim lyrics and monotone vocals on this song give it a punk edge.

Near the end, a fan threw a Winner’s Casino (an actual casino and a song from 2002’s Winnemucca) satin baseball-style jacket, up on stage as they played their final song. Willy sported a big grin as he played. They later posed for a photo with the jacket, all smiles. It was a great way to close the night and to find closure with this beloved band.

Like some of Willy Vlautin’s characters in his songs and stories, the band mates are probably going to be alright after the breakup.Willy, Sean Oldham, and Freddy Trujillo are already members of another band called The Delines. Willy is planning to spend some time working on his next book. Dan Eccles also plays in a band with Portland legend Fernando Viciconte.

We can’t go back, but we can look ahead. They’re still with us, just transformed and scattered into new entities.

Bitter and sweet.

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Check out Richmond Fontaine’s tour updates for the rest of the year here:  http://richmondfontaine.com/dates

Listen and purchase their music through Bandcamp here: http://richmondfontaine.bandcamp.com/

I also posted a version of this piece to No Depression here: http://nodepression.com/live-review/richmond-fontaines-swan-song-seattle

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 18, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Alt-Country, Americana, Richmond Fontaine, The Sunset Tavern, Willy Vlautin | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Brambles and Legendary Oaks – Sunset Tavern 1.18.2014

Legendary Oaks

Legendary Oaks

Although still exhausted from my crazy road trip from the week before and the sleepless aftermath of frantically writing the corresponding blog, we couldn’t pass up a chance to see some live music in Ballard.  Our neighbors invited us out to The Sunset Tavern January 18th.  They had seen Legendary Oaks before and thought we might like them, too.  The other two opening bands were unknown to all of us.  Check out the links of all the bands below and hear their music.  Watch their videos. Make a purchase and support our local musicians.

Day Laborers and Petty Intellectuals

Day Laborers and Petty Intellectuals

Day Laborers and Petty Intellectuals opened the show.  When I saw the name in the bill, I thought it might be a Tom Petty cover band.  I don’t usually enjoy cover bands, but I was willing to give it a shot this time, since it would be a comfort to sit back and enjoy some familiar music.  I was disappointed when I quickly realized they were not a TP cover band at all. This big band played original pop/folk (they call themselves a six-piece folk-apocalypse band) tunes and had an unusual narrative style that wasn’t hitting my sweet spot. Other audience members disagreed; many people seemed attentive and clapped heartily for them after each song.  Maybe I was having an off night.  Check them out for yourself.

The Brambles - Photo Credit: M. Kyle Moseby

The Brambles – Photo Credit: M. Kyle Moseby

The Brambles (aka West Coast Brambles–not to be confused with East Coast Brambles) were up next.  Their music definitely hit the spot for me.   They had a tight sound with a bluesy Americana vibe.  People danced to the nice two-step, upbeat tempo.  Some songs were more solemn than others, but it was a good mix of both. The guitarist, Omar Schambacher was amazing. It seemed he was dying for a chance to break out into a big, rockin’ solo.  We enjoyed watching him play.  Also, my husband enjoyed Vanessa Small, the lead singer.  She was “not bad to look at” according to P, in his usual subdued enthusiasm, and she had a great voice for Americana.

Next, the headliner, Legendary Oaks came out fightin’.  The lead singer, Craig Schoen admitted he had a good buzz on and dove right in.  Their music was loud and rocking with a psychedelic alt-country twang, sans fiddler.  Our neighbor informed us that the last time he saw Legendary Oaks, not only was Schoen piss drunk, but he chewed out his fiddler onstage for being completely out of key on a song.  Awesome.  They seemed to do just fine without her and filled the whole room with sound.

Right about the time Legendary Oaks took the stage, the dance floor shifted from two-step to a Bellevue up-scale club scene.  It was surreal. Women with up-dos and pretty dresses you’d see at cocktail parties or conventions sauntered in and proceeded to dance, Night-at-the-Roxbury-style, in too-high heels.  There was also a small bachelorette party that joined them. The band was obviously amused by this strange turn on the dance floor. Schoen was on stage screamin’, cussin’ and wailin’ on his acoustic guitar while the girls raised the roof and tried to look like their shoes weren’t mangling their feet.  Oh, we had a good laugh at the bizarre dichotomy!  But as Kevin Shinyribs Russell says, “There’s no wrong way to dance!” So I had to give the girls credit for getting out there and shaking it.  We certainly wouldn’t be shaking anything but the last drop outta the can of PBR this night.

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Legendary Oaks, The Brambles, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys at The Sunset 12.21.13

Big Sandy with Kevin Stewart on Bass

Big Sandy with Kevin Stewart on Bass

I couldn’t stop smiling tonight.  Big Sandy and the boys brought their top-notch show to the intimate Sunset Tavern.  I only wished I knew how to dance.

We began our fantastic weekend by checking in to the very swanky Hotel Ballard, directly across the street to our ol’ stompin’ grounds, Hattie’s Hat and The Tractor.  The boutique hotel just recently opened, and it is fabulous.  Although the nightly rates are a little steep and garage parking is $15, it’s a steal for attending any shows in Ballard.  We could not come close to matching their rates by staying in downtown Seattle and paying over $30 for parking plus taking a taxi to Ballard.  We’ll be sure to stay here again.  Our room was spotless and tastefully decorated, too, with an iron balcony overlooking “our” street.

We got in to town around 5:30 and got settled in.  We decided to go grab a bite at Bastille, a French restaurant just a few steps up the street.  Being the last weekend before Christmas, we wondered if the crowds would be crazy, or if the neighborhood would be quiet.  Actually, the crowds were manageable.  We bellied up to the beautiful bar and ordered a shared meal from a bartender who looked like he came from some glamorous Parisian bar that served Oscar Wilde.  His hair was slicked back and buzzed and he had a respectable beard.  I think I remember his friendly and polite manner from the last time we ate there.  He brought us some wonderful drinks and took our order for chicken and baguettes.  There was a sea salt sprinkle on the baguettes that made them irresistible.  The half chicken was delicately fried and crispy.  A few tiny Brussels sprouts and some rustic potatoes surrounded the moist chicken.  After saying adieu to our genteel bartender, we continued down the street to find dessert.

First, we stopped by The Sunset to see if the crowds were forming, but it was dead.  We checked in and got stamped so we could come back later.

We noticed most of the smaller restaurants and cafes were packed.  We stopped by the very crowded Hot Cakes and picked up a delicious peanut butter cookie that we devoured in minutes.  I think we waited longer in line than the time it took to eat that cookie!

Back to our room.  We cleaned up, donned our western apparel, and headed back up the street to The Sunset.  The audience grew exponentially once we entered.  I could not believe it, but once again, we were able to get two bar stools at the end of the bar.  We get so lucky scamming seats!  We happily scooted in next to a pair of rockabilly girls dressed in leopard prints and beautiful up-do’s.  Next to them was someone I recognized from our first Big Sandy show.  He had a large, colorful neck tattoo and a perfectly coiffed ducktail.  His tweed jacket completed the dapper package.  I took a pic of him at the first show because he got on stage with Big S and sang a rockabilly tune in a death metal pig squeal while Big S laughed. It was so hilarious!  Here is the link of that show: http://randomville.com/live-review-big-sandy-and-his-fly-rite-boys/.  I felt shy when we first got there, and was not ready to introduce myself quite yet.  I did bring my business cards this time, so at least I was a little more prepared to pass around the cards.

We also saw some other people we knew.  We are starting to feel like regulars.  I guess we are, since we have been hitting the Ballard clubs regularly since 2007.  Big Sandy came out of the backstage room and ordered a soft drink at the opposite end of the bar.  He looked our way, and we smiled and raised our glasses to him.  He smiled and did the same.  I should have walked over and talked to him, but the growing crowd surrounded us.   Johnny 7 Stuart showed up.  He opened for Big S in Portland a couple of days before.  Johnny said the Portland show was cool, in the old  and elegant Crystal Ballroom. He also managed to catch X and Blasters at El Corazon the night before.  We had another function that night, so I was bummed I missed that show.  I enjoyed talking with Johnny, and miss seeing him play on stage.  It’s been a while.  We’ll make an effort to see his show in 2014.  Gaby, our Bothell friend showed up with her husband, Marc, too.  Dean, an acquaintance we met at Hattie’s before the first Big Sandy show, also arrived.  Pat recognized him and brought him over.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers

Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers

The crowd pushed forward, and we realized we were right in the middle of a giant group of Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers!  They looked like college students, all buff and beautiful, but with hideous red and green sweaters!  It was fantastic to see the variety and creativity.  I’m sure some were lovingly made by a grandparent.  I took a few pics.

Snowman Vest

Snowman Vest

Country Dave Harmonson was there, too, and was going to play with the opening band, Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer.  Cahalen and crew loaded in while we ordered drinks and a pizza slice.  I didn’t think I could eat a bite, but it was so good!  Cahalen Morrison’s band filled the stage with guitars, steel, drums and violin.  They had a tight country sound and the dancers appreciated their lively tunes.

Cahalen Morrison

Cahalen Morrison

I said hello to Gaby and told her I was glad she made it.  P saw her earlier, and she said she was trying to get off work asap to get to the show.  She knew it would be packed.  Actually, after the pub crawlers dissipated (they were only on the 2nd pub of the night), the crowd became pretty reasonable.  It was probably only ¾ full, and by the end of the night only about ¼ stuck around.  We were perfectly comfortable on our stools and took turns getting up and moving through the crowd.  I also said hello to Country Dave after his show, and again congratulated him on his superb skills on pedal steel.  He’s really a master.  I also told him that Pat saw him at the airport playing his gig, but he didn’t want to interrupt his playing.  Dave said, “PLEASE” stop by and say hi, because he gets bored sometimes sitting in the airport with no one to talk to!  So if you ever see a man picking a guitar or pedal steel at SeaTac Airport, please stop by and pay Country Dave Harmonson a visit.  He’ll appreciate your support.

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Big Sandy loaded in and we prepared for his rollicking show.  I just love his energy.  Here’s a review from last August: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/two-big-nights-big-sandy-willie-nelson-and-the-gourds-8-22-8-23-13/ We took our seats and meanwhile, I asked Pat to look up my first Big Sandy review from 2012, because I was pretty sure there was a picture of our tattooed neighbor in my review.  There he was, up on stage squealing away!

Clark, the Death Metal Pig Squealer!

Clark, the Death Metal Pig Squealer!

I zoomed in on the pic to fill the phone’s screen, and slowly moved it in front of him.  He stopped, looked at the pic, looked at me, and laughed!  “Hey, that was a fun night!  Did you take that picture?”  Yes, I did, and I wrote the review, too! “So, did you coin the phrase, ‘Death Metal Pig Squeal?’”  Well, yes, yes I did! Ha! That cracked me up.  I coined a phrase! He shook my hand and introduced himself as Clark.  We spoke for a while about the whole rockabilly culture.  I am so enamored with the scene.  I love the coiffed hair, the beautiful dresses and tattoos.  I took a few pics of the dancers.  I envy their cool looks.  I wanted to dress up after my first rockabilly show, but just didn’t seem to have the nerve—or the tattoos! I love connecting with people at these shows, too.  We’re finally branching out a bit.  We used to just sit there by ourselves and not interact with anyone, and it can tend to get boring in between sets.

Guitar extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and drummer Joe Perez

Guitar extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and drummer Joe Perez

Big Sandy, drummer Joe Perez (aka Lil’ Sandy), guitarist extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and bassist Kevin Stewart were ready to go.  He had a massive setlist, and I think he hit most of the songs on it.  He must have played for about an hour and a half, maybe 2 hours.  I lost track of time once they got started.  The dancers were out en force.  I had fun watching them twirl around.  The girls had such pretty dresses and ta-tas to fill them.  I don’t think I could “fill” those dresses properly! I really wanted to get out there and dance, though.  It was a swing style, with lots of twirling and fancy footwork.

Dancers tearing up the floor!

Dancers tearing up the floor!

He played many of my favorites, including “Miss Tracy”, “Jumping From 6 to 6”,  and “Chalk it Up to the Blues”.  His energized set kept the dancers moving.  He played a couple of acoustics off the latest album, What A Dream It’s Been too, and the audience adjusted accordingly to some slow dances.  Ashley  Kingman rocked his electric guitar again, in his unassuming style.  He’s an expert, and never has to add gimmicky moves to get his musical point across.  I love the explosion of sound. Big Sandy delivers his smooth lyrics through the intro, and then he turns to the boys and lets them go, go, go!

I was disappointed in how few people stayed around till the end.  He’s such a class act, and should fill a larger venue.  It was getting late, though, and I think people like to hit the road before midnight.  We didn’t have far to go, so we were in no rush.  We were glad we stayed, glad we got to talk to some more friends, glad we had a free weekend to get out and let loose!

We talked to Big Sandy (aka Robert Williams) after his show.  He sweat right through his suit, and rightly so, after such a long and electric set.  He noticed we came early and stayed late.  I again told him I wrote about his show a while back and gave him my card this time. We took some pics with him and wished him well.  I also bought a cool t-shirt from Ashley, who also remembered reading my previous review, so that was rewarding.

The boys were headed to Eugene next before returning to California.

It was a perfect birthday weekend getaway.  Thank you, P!

December 28, 2013 Posted by | aplscruf, Big Sandy, Concert Season 2013, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Season 2013 Wrap-up

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Concert Season 2013 is winding down.  I thought I’d get a head start and list some highlights of the year in music.  I still have a few shows I’m hoping to see before the year is up, but my busy schedule might prevent me from posting anything until 2014.  I went to a few shows in the spring and summer that I never blogged about but deserve some mention here.  There are also a few bands mentioned below that I didn’t get to see this year, but I’m hoping will show up in 2014.  Some have new albums out, too.  I’ll keep it short and will give you the basic information.  It will be up to you, dear reader, to click on the links and look up these terrific bands, explore their music and purchase some CD’s for the gift-giving season.  Most importantly, GET OUT THERE AND SEE A SHOW!

Local Seattle-Area Bands: (Mind you, this is an incomplete list of the enormously talented bands in Seattle)

Jackrabbit – One of our favorite little bands in Seattle. We kicked off the year seeing them at The Tractor in January.  The threesome kicks ass on stage.  Never a disappointment. They add new songs to the setlist quite frequently.

Massy Ferguson – A Seattle Rock-n-Roll/Country Rock Darling.  We went to their CD Release Party for Victory and Ruins at The Triple Door.  My Plus 1 and I had a fantastic time sitting in the front row for this performance which was also broadcast live for kids struggling with various illnesses in a local hospital.  Frontman Ethan Anderson gave his all, as usual.  It was the best performance by the band so far, in my opinion, and I’ve seen them play many shows over the years.  We also saw them on a rainy summer evening in Duvall at an outdoor performance.  They jinxed our perfect rain-free summer! A hearty group of fans braved the showers and were treated with another fine show by the boys.  We picked up a cool t-shirt after the show.  Massy Ferguson also frequent some of the wineries in Eastern Washington, so check ’em out in Wenatchee, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla sometime.  Here’s a blog I wrote last year for No Depression.

The Swearengens – Their motto is “The Seattle alt-country band your mama warned you about.”  We try to see this band as often as possible.  I love their big sound.  You never know what will happen at one of their shows: dancing, drinking, special guests and lots of friends joining in on the fun. Oh, and never have a whiskey drinkin’ contest with frontman Fredd Luongo.  You will lose. Their latest album, Waiting on the Sunrise is a treat.  Check out their link and listen or purchase some merch.

Davidson Hart Kingsbery – His self-titled new album is getting some positive, nation-wide press.  We saw part of his show in January, and dug it.

The Rainieros – Another tight country band with a Western swing kicker. Their latest album, Last Call received critical acclaim and was one of the top Americana albums of 2012. We saw them open for Big Sandy in August.

The Ganges River Band – We saw them for the first time at The Sunset this summer.  They opened for Shinyribs and blasted through a clean set of country.  Country Dave Harmonson helped out on pedal steel and electric guitar.  Always a treat.

Ole Tinder – Ole timey country.  We saw them open for Massy Ferguson at Barboza and at The Tractor with Jackrabbit.  Mike Giacolino also has a solo project while Nils Peterson plays in another band called Rose Windows.  JB Kardong also sits in with other bands including Jackrabbit and Sera Cahoone.

The Dusty 45’s – I’ll try to finish up a blog I started of this energetic show.  Billy Joe Huels is THE Frontman.  No one can light a trumpet ablaze, stand on a bass and blow the way he can! We went to a benefit concert supporting the DESC and were thoroughly entertained.

Star Anna  – Opened solo for The Dusty 45’s.  We’ve seen her shows several times.  Her voice will grab your heart and rip it out.  She has a new album out right now called Go To Hell, so pick it up and prepare to be mesmerized by her haunting vocals.

Not-So-Local Bands:

Tom Petty (DUH.) And here’s the latest, if you didn’t check out our trip to Hollywood earlier this year. BEST SHOW OF THE YEAR.

The Gourds – If Tom Petty is my musical Jesus, then The Gourds are my Church.  Always a religious experience.  My soul runneth over at every show, including the latest in August at The Tractor.  One of my Best Weekends Ever.

Shinyribs – Kevin Russell’s solo project.  He has so much creative energy that one band (The Gourds) isn’t enough for him.  If you’re lucky, he’ll open for The Gourds and you’ll get double the fun.  Check out his bandcamp site for a little booty shakin’ music.  We saw him again just two weeks after his stint at The Tractor.  He came back and played at The Sunset!

Willie Nelson – Hurry up if you haven’t seen him already.  He’s 80, but can still put on a class act for 90 solid minutes.  We saw him in August at Marymoor Park.  Tears in eyes.

The Wild Feathers – This big band opened for Willie Nelson at Marymoor and we fell in love with them.  Besides their original tunes, they managed to cover Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart” with my approval.

Big Sandy – Roots rock, rockabilly and Western swing.  Big Sandy’s a ball of energy and the king of smooth.  He plays in Southern Cal most of the year, but tours around the country and Europe, too.  If he shows up with Los Straitjackets (see below), it’s a Must-See show.  We saw him in August at The Tractor.

Los Straitjackets – Eddie Angel’s lucha libre mask-wearing band of psycho surf musicians and one of Marshall Chapman’s (see Marshall below) favorite bands.  Angel was actually the guitarist in Marshall’s band back in the 80’s.  They’re known world-wide for their onstage antics and surf guitar mastery.  I had the pleasure of meeting them at a local show a couple of years ago.  They’re currently touring the East Coast.  Hoping to see them again in 2014.

Greg Townson – Solo artist, Hi-Riser (Meet the Hi-Risers Here!) and Gregorio El Grande of Los Straitjackets.  He can sing a swoon-worthy love song (buy his latest album, On Your Side) or perform a face-melting guitar solo.  Check him out in Rochester, NY or on the current Los Straitjackets tour.  He also joins the bands overseas to Italy, Spain and other countries.

Marshall Chapman – A Nashville treasure and my musical hero.  Rodney Crowell calls her “The Goddess of Tall”.  The first time I saw her was in 2011 at The Station Inn , a Nashville mecca for  singer/songwriters of country, Americana and bluegrass.  All my preconceived notions of Nashville flew out the window that night.  She was REAL.  She was CANDID.  She had bare feet.  And she wore basketball shorts to the performance.  I liked her before she ever sang a note.  Here is my blog of that show (scroll down a bit to find the Nashville section).  She has a new album and a couple of books that are Must-Reads for music lovers.  Check her website for more info and purchase some merch!

My husband, who travels to the Nashville area often, had a chance to see her play again this year at The Bluebird Cafe, another very famous yet tiny Nashville hangout.  Will Kimbrough (see below) accompanied her on guitar once again to promote her new album, Blaze of Glory, which is getting rave reviews.  I was so jealous that my husband attended the show without me, but I knew he would return with her signed CD.  What I missed most were the stories that accompanied the songs.  My husband recounted a few stories to me when he returned.  She also told the audience that this album is meant to be shared with the one you love. Play it in the bedroom with the curtains drawn and the lights low.  By the fifth song, you should be ripping each other’s clothes off.

My sweet husband did bring home a signed copy of Marshall’s CD.  Throughout the album, the instruments stay firmly put in the background, allowing Marshall’s vocals and lyrics to shine.  Occasionally, Mr. Mike Utley, one of  Jimmy Buffet’s cohorts and co-producer of this album, drops in for a visit with an organ accompaniment.  The first two songs offer some good ol’ rock and roll, and one includes The Reverend Todd Snider on vocals.   After that, she pulls in for a sexy slow dance.  A new genre is born, says Marshall: “Torch-song Americana”.  Hear some tunes here.

Will Kimbrough – Another Nashville hero whom I found through Jimmy Buffett.  We’ve seen him perform several times in various locations solo, with Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Todd Snider and with Marshall Chapman in Nashville.  He just released a solo album, Sideshow Love, and will perform in the Seattle-Bellingham area in early January 2014!  More info soon!! A MUST-SEE EVENT!!!

Willie Sugarcapps – An Americana supergroup starring Will Kimbrough- also with new album out this year.  They are getting outstanding press and are currently enjoying a Gulf Shores Shrimp Fest weekend in Alabama.

Todd Snider – Now, The Reverend Todd Snider.  He received his license to officiate in support of gay marriage.  Part folk/Americana, part country, and part rock-n-roll.  He can make a political statement in a song before you know what hit you.  His live shows are a stand-up comedy act with some music thrown in.  He makes you think, laugh and generally just have fun.  He said he isn’t trying to preach to you, either.  He tells these stories because they rhyme.  We also saw him at The Triple Door last year, and I wrote a review for Randomvile.  We saw him at The Zoo this summer on a perfect Sunday evening.  He brought along Hayes Carll, whom I coined Todd Jr. by the end of his set.  He was also a storyteller, and had funny songs that accompanied the backstories.  His voice was a little more country than Todd’s, more akin to Jack Ingraham.  Carll also had some inappropriate songs that he couldn’t sing because of “the children” in attendance.  On his website, he had a ton of videos.  Shawn Mullins, , of the notorious talk-sing “Rockabye” song, was a very pleasant surprise.  His guitar playing was superb, and his other songs rich and interesting.  Sarah Jarosz opened Todd’s show.  I really enjoyed her clear folk vocals accompanied by a fiddler and a cellist, who plucked his instrument like a bass.  She did a Bob Dylan cover of “Ring Them Bells” and it was wonderful.  She only played about a half-hour set, but kept the audience’s attention the entire time.

Tommy Womack – Another favorite Nashville/Kentucky solo artist, a Daddy with Will Kimbrough, and collaborator with many others including Todd Snider.  He has an album out (several, actually), and plays regularly at The Station Inn with Will and Marshall.  He also wrote a humorous and heartbreaking tell-all about his life in the band Government Cheese called Cheese Chronicles.  A very entertaining read.  Visit with him on YouTube every Monday Morning for a cup of coffee (see his website or FB for more info) and pick up your own coffee mug on his website.  “Don’t let the bastards get you down!” I have yet to meet Tommy, but P got to meet him at The Station Inn last year.  I’m hoping to make it back to Nashville in 2014.

Have I missed anyone here?  I’m sure I have.  It’s been a tough year to find time to get out there, so we’ve been very picky about our show dates.  We try to see our regulars first and foremost.  Once in a blue moon we see a new band or enjoy an opening set;  it’s always a nice surprise to add one to our “favorite band” list,

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Barboza, Big Sandy, Concert Season 2013, Davidson Hart Kingsbery, Dusty 45's, Gimme Shelter, Jackrabbit, Los Straitjackets, Marshall Chapman, Marymoor Park, Massy Ferguson, Music, Ole Tinder, Randomville, Roots Rock, Seattle, Shinyribs, Star Anna, Tagaris Winery, The Fonda Theatre, The Gourds, The Hi-Risers, The Rainieros, The Sunset Tavern, The Swearengens, The Tractor Tavern, The Triple Door, The Wild Feathers, Todd Snider, Tom Petty, Will Kimbrough, Willie Nelson | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shinyribs at The Sunset Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Sunset Tavern

Shinyribs

The Ganges River Band opened

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Shinyribs

Shinyribs

Stormy weather was moving in, but P and I were moving West to Ballard this evening to see Shinyribs, made up of Kevin Russell and Keith Langford from The Gourds.  Although the boys were just up here two weeks ago, they made the trip back for this solo-ish show and brought a couple of different guys with them to fill out the band, including Winfield Cheek on keyboards and Jeff Brown on bass.  We were interested to see what Kev would do with this new band.  I listened several times to the two albums on shinyribs.bandcamp.com , but was not sure how they’d fare live.  I knew I’d make comparisons to The Gourds all night.

We did the usual Ballard crawl around Market Street.  The light turned and we trolled for a parking spot for just a few minutes before landing the perfect spot just a few cars away from the front entrance of The Sunset.  That was a score because the rain was a-comin’ in a big way.

The Sunset was pretty empty when we arrived, but P spotted Mr. Russell and the band sitting at the front window waiting on their pizza.  We said hello, and they seemed to recognize us from The Gourds show, or at least recognize that we are giant fans from our big smiles and our dorky, waving arms. ha  We chatted briefly about seeing them just a couple of weeks ago and about their current mini-tour that would take them to Oregon and California.   Their pizza arrived, so we left them alone and found a spot at the bar.

We settled on a position, not too far from the stage.  A little country honky-tonk band called The Buckaroosters were on stage in bright, fringed western attire akin to Marty McFly’s duds in the third Back to the Future movie.  They rounded out their set with Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally”.

The Ganges River Band

The Ganges River Band

The crowd grew as The Ganges River Band set up and performed a quick sound check. The band included Country Dave Harmonson on pedal steel and guitar.  I ran into Dave right before the show and had a few seconds with him.  I loved his performance with The Swearengens last year at their CD release party.  We got to be right up next to his pedal steel and watch the pro at work.  I haven’t seen his equal since.  He gigs with several different bands around town, and even has a steady gig at Sea-Tac Airport.  Find him there between 10 and noon.

The Ganges River Band performed a clean set of country tunes.  Country Dave switched from steel to electric about ¾ through the set.  The lead singer announced this was going to be their rock ‘n’ roll part of the set.  Someone, of course, yelled out “Freebird!” and got everyone laughing.  Country Dave quickly responded with his middle finger raised high: “I’ll show YOU a free bird!” More laughter and clapping broke out through the growing crowd.

After their rocking country finale, Shinyribs took the stage.  It took a while to tear down and set up.  In the meantime, we ordered a delicious Flying Squirrel Margarita pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, onions and basil with spicy red sauce on flat bread.  Fantastico.

There was a guy eyeing P’s bar stool earlier in the night, and their friendly back-n-forth banter about takin’- each-other-out-back-but-they’re-too-old made me chuckle.  He just wanted to get a beer, and slid in by P’s seat while P stood up to stretch.  What I failed to realize is that he was Winfield Cheek, the keyboardist for Shinyribs! Good grief.  I had an opportunity to talk to him, but blew it.  Oh well.  It’s pretty hard to talk in that environment anyway.  Way too loud.

The boys set up, sound-checked and got down to bidness.  Kev announced, “No ass-pinchin’, keep yer hands to yerself…” and other pre-flight rules and regulations, then rocketed into their two albums worth of what he later described as CRISCO: Country-Disco!  A new genre!  Like The Gourds, it is hard to nail down their sound into one genre.  It’s Americana, a little rootsy, a little country, but the keyboard changes the whole vibe to R&B on a few songs.  Kevin throws in some old-timey blues and gospel numbers and has the audience clapping along like we’re in a Southern Baptist revival.  And I love it all.

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I didn’t see a setlist, but managed to write down most of the songs that I recognized or that he called out throughout the set.  You can hear most of the songs on the Shinyribs Bandcamp site.  They started with “Devilsong” off their first album, Well After Awhile.  “Country Cool” followed, with lots of back-n-forth from keys to guitar.  Such a joyful sound—similar to The Gourds, but not as gritty.  I stopped trying to compare and just enjoyed their set.

Kevin went on to say the next song was an anthropomorphic song.   He first defined anthropomorphism for the less eddy-cated. I didn’t catch the title of this one, but it had to do with a big north wind hitting Henderson Swamp.  Swamp Funk.  I read an article in the Houston Chronicle that named Shinyribs’ style as Swamp Funk.  I like that.  The article gives more information regarding the formation of Shinyribs and the musings of Kevin Russell.

“Me and Jesus”  A Gospel revival song-I felt like I was in church, but in a good way.

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“Will the Circle Be Unbroken” –My thoughts went back to the Willie Nelson show from a couple of weeks before…by and by, Lord, by and by.  The clapping audience turned the show into a frenzied revival right there at The Sunset Tavern.

“Shores of Galilee” from Well After Awhile–Kevin said this song reminded him of the roller rink dances of his junior high days, and dedicated the song to all the roller rink girls of his youth.

“This is the first song off our new album!” he yelled, called “Sweeter Than the Scars” from Gulf Coast Museum and featured a long, repetitive jam session on keys.

The next song entitled “Sweet Potato” was also from the new album.  He introduced it by saying this was a song about his favorite root vegetable.  It is actually a beautiful, almost sexy ode to the sweet potato, or the sweet tater of one’s life, I suppose.  Falsetto vocals channeled his Marvin Gaye R&B side.  A mesmerizing guitar solo near the end of the song took it to a new level for the live show. “Baby, I’m a lover, not a hater/ Lay down for me, sweet potater.”

Another song I need to research is “Sugar Cane”.  I have the word “Electric!” in my journal followed by “Shake…that booty!”  Must’ve been a good one! [Since this posting, I found the song on Gulf Coast Museum.  It’s called “Bolshevik Sugar Cane” and yes, “shake that booty” is in the lyrics.   AND it made me shake my booty!]

Russell then mentioned they would be playing the Sisters Folk Festival in Sisters, Oregon next.  After that, they do a few more gigs around Portland; then they roll south to California.  A two-week tour, said Kev and Keith, is just about right.–just long enough.

Kevin then pulled out an old Leadbelly song that dates back to the early 20th century.  Leadbelly got his name from apparently being shot in the stomach five times and surviving.  He was a badass from Mooringsport, LA.  Kevin said, “We need this song now.”  Kevin sang his version accompanied by the mic and his clapping hands: “We’s in the Same Boat Brother!”  The audience dug this one and clapped along heartily.  It transported us to a different time and to a land far from here; and yet the words are still meaningful today.  Says Leadbelly, “There’s one world, and we all in it together.”

He then covered another “pure soul song” by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass called “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”.   Kevin told a brief story of Teddy’s stint as a drummer until he was given an opportunity to sing this song.  Teddy’s drummer days were over and he became a soul sensation.  Kev did the song justice and included it on Gulf Coast Museum.

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Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary” was next, as Kevin gave a nod to Jimi’s Seattle roots.  He used his little guitar, similar to a jarana, [CORRECTION: that is a 6-string Ukulele!] and did his own version of Jimi’s solo by picking behind his head and doing a faux tooth strum.  Fantastic.  I yelled, “Light It!” ha

He then covered an old English folk tune that he said came from the bogs, immigrated to America and became warped in The South.  I’m not sure of the title, but it was about a man begging for salvation from the hangman’s noose. Keith helped out on drums while Kevin dove into the role.  Near the end of his rope, he got down on his knees and prayed, and then lay right down on the stage.

Prayin' for salvation

Prayin’ for salvation

Shinyribs Down!

Shinyribs Down!

“Somebody Else” is a poignant, heartbreaking song from Gulf Coast Museum.

I had to take a restroom break before the next song.  I’m mentioning that here only because while in the restroom, I heard Kevin say the following: “Salvador Dali Parton”.  That is how he described his next song, which he also said reminded him of Dolly’s “Jolene”.  I came back to my place next to P and he’d also written the word “Crisco” in my little journal.  I asked him what that meant, and he said, “It’s how Kevin described their sound!  Country-Disco…CRISCO!”

“Poor Peoples Store” is a great little ditty, although more true-to-life that I want to admit.  That great divide of rich and poor is getting wider by the minute, I’m afraid.  Cha cha cha.

I believe there are a few songs I missed in here, and I might have some incorrect titles.  I just wanted to sit back and listen up.  The boys finished with a big jam session and the diminished crowd pushed forward and whooped along.  Unfortunately, this Thursday night’s attendance was a bit slim.  I thought the place would be packed, knowing how many people shove into The Tractor to see The Gourds.  People get wimpy on weekdays.  We planned ahead, though, and took Friday off.  No wimping out here!

Afterward, the crowd filed out to the sidewalk.  We missed Keith, but Kevin took a seat by the door.  We congratulated him on another great night.  I had to tell him: “Your music fills my soul!”  Kev raised his arms up and yelled, “Yesss!  Success!  Got another one!”  We laughed at this.  It’s so true, though.  Of all the bands we’ve seen over the years, The Gourds and Shinyribs move me like no other.  So in that respect, the two bands are similar.

After their stint in Oregon and Cali, Shinyribs will head back to Texas.  They’ll play Austin City Limits October 6.

 

September 8, 2013 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2013, Shinyribs, The Gourds, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Night Out at The Sunset Tavern 10.13.2012

Star Anna and Ty Bailie

After a long, dry spell of no nights out to see live music, we finally formulated a plan for Saturday, October 13.  We drove into Ballard and after circling the block several times (our usual course of action) we scored a street spot in a central location.  We made our way to a new establishment called Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen.  The enticing smell of barbecued meats filled our nostrils as we walked down the sidewalk to the refurbished warehouse.  After a relatively short wait in the bar area (we stood at a tall, slim rail with a little shelf to place our drinks), we were seated in the noisy dining area.  The warehouse environment made for a loud crowd echo, but we didn’t mind it too much; we were just so glad to get out.  We shared a tender pulled pork, with sides of mac ‘n’ cheese and collard greens.

We walked around the corner and up the block to Hot Cakes, a very tasty new dessert bar just a few doors down from The Sunset.  We shared (we’re finding we don’t spend or eat as much if we just share meals, and we still wind up pretty dang full) a molten lava chocolate cake with caramel sauce and little toffee chunks sprinkled on a ball of vanilla ice cream.  Hot Cakes’ ingredients are mostly if not all from local vendors.  And just so tasty.  They also served some alcoholic beverages and coffee drinks.  You can also purchase some of their products in kit form and take it home and bake yourself.

Full and happy, we strolled into The Sunset Tavern and enjoyed some great local music from Sherilyn Segrest, Star Anna, Kasey Anderson and not-so-local Lydia Loveless.  See my Randomville review here for a taste of their music and links to their websites: http://randomville.com/live-review-star-anna-and-kasey-anderson-at-the-sunset-tavern/

October 20, 2012 Posted by | Concert Season 2012, Kasey Anderson, Star Anna, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Black Crabs at The Sunset Tavern 6.26.2012

The Black Crabs

We ventured out on a Tuesday night to watch The Black Crabs perform again, this time at The Sunset Tavern.  P and I fell in love with the whole Rockabilly scene after our initiation at the Big Sandy show a couple of weeks ago.  Tuesday isn’t the most profitable night for musicians; so we thought we’d share the love, grab some great pizza at The Sunset and at least stay through their set. The bill also included The King County Shakes, Henry Golden Boys and a guest appearance by Zoe Muth.  Sorry, we’ll have to catch y’all at a later date.

Kirsten Ballweg and Tom Forster

The best part of the night came when Johnny 7 of The Black Crabs took the stage and donned his guitar for the first time since a dog bite left him unable to play.  He still had pins in his pinky finger and normally wore a brace on it.  After removing the brace and a quick warm-up, he was ready.  Although he said it felt a little stiff at first, he dove in and managed to power through a 12-song set.  It was great seeing him behind the guitar, although his “awesome dance moves” were missed.  Kirsten Ballweg on bass and drummer Tom Forster had fun with vocals and solos.  I wished more people had shown up, but the tiny Sunset filled in by the middle of the set.

We decided to go home right after The Black Crabs finished, knowing 5:00 am would come too soon. We said our goodbyes with promises to see them again. On the drive home, we made a quick stop at Dick’s Drive-In, shared a milkshake and savored our “bonus” night out.

Here’s the setlist:

All I Can Do

Lotta Lovin’

Black Cat Boogie

Let’s Elope

Doorknob

Smart Attack

Thirteen Times

Not Knowing

Say Mama

Sweet Sweet

Messin’

Blast Off!

The Black Crabs are playing this Saturday, June 30 at the Greenwood Car Show, so of course we’re going.  P also has a friend who is showing his car.  Bonus.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Concert Season 2012, Music, The Black Crabs, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fox and The Law at The Sunset Tavern 3.2.2012

Fox and The Law Photo courtesy of Ray Spaddy

Fox and The Law held my attention from the first chord to the last beat.  The youthful band just burst with energy onstage. They played a rocking show to a full house at The Sunset Tavern, a kickoff to their eventual destination, SXSW. 

Check out the full review on Randomville!

Since this review posted, they are currently in SXSW and will play Wednesday, March 14!

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Concert Season 2012, Fox and The Law, Randomville, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo 12.13.2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Black Daisy, The Purrs, and Brent Amaker and the Rodeo

Sunset Tavern, Ballard

 

I had a rowdy weekend with P in downtown Seattle for my early b’day celebration. I thought [29 – ha] was going to be tough, but we managed to shop at Pike Place Market, eat till we were stuffed, see a show, take a whiskey communion, and taxi back to our hotel at 2 am. Not bad! And it snowed…even better!

P also surprised me with an acoustic/electric guitar! He’s so sneaky, he brought it down to the hotel that am and had it brought up to the room! I told him I didn’t need anything, I just wanted to go out on the town. So he asked if he should take it back. Are you kidding me?? ha

Before the show, we shopped a little at Pike Place Market. We also stuffed ourselves at McCormick’s and Schmick’s on 1st Ave, just up the street from our favorite hotel, Hotel 1000. We also had drinks and appetizers at Boka next door to the hotel, and were amazed by the large snowflakes pelting the window of the taxi as we headed in to Ballard to see our Rodeo boys.

We saw Brent Amaker and the Rodeo (new album entitled, “Howdy-Do!”) in this little divey bar called the Sunset Tavern in Ballard, just up the street from the Tractor. I think it used to be a Chinese restaurant back in the day. Still has red velvet wallpaper. Two other bands played first: Black Daisy, a Tenacious-D style band with extremely funny yet tasteless lyrics, then The Purrs who’d been playing for many decades, apparently.

The Rodeo came on last, so we had to pace ourselves to make it to midnight, but always worth the wait. Johnny Cash with a potty mouth. We brought them some whiskey for the communion, danced along to their crazy, campy cowboy songs, and I kissed P under the mistletoe. We even received little gifts from the boys. One lucky audience member received the grand prize, Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots!

The next morning, although a very cold 19 degrees, we decided to walk back to Pike Place Market. It was so interesting there. We decided to eat breakfast at Lowell’s, which has been at Pike Place since forever. It was crowded, so we ate at the bar, but had a view of the sound from across the restaurant. It was a sunny, chilly day. People were flocking in after the Jingle Bell Run, all decked out in running gear and Santa hats. It was interesting watching all the runners with their flushed cheeks and panting breath. I had never been at the Market when vendors were setting up their booths. They were carting big plastic containers of their wares, boxes of fruit and vegetables, meats and fish. It was fun walking amongst the organized chaos and chatting vendors. We also did some shopping in The Market and purchased family Christmas gifts at Market Spice Teas and Beecher’s, a local cheese shop.

A wonderful birthday weekend!

February 16, 2010 Posted by | Brent Amaker and the Rodeo, Concert Season 2008, Music, The Sunset Tavern | | Leave a comment